I took a drive around the neighborhood this week on my way home from work. It’s the neighborhood I spent most of my childhood in, and it’s still my home today. What started out as a mini joy-ride to enjoy the changing trees turned into a trip down memory lane.
I remember walking alone, up and down my hilly neighborhood to play at my friend’s house. I remember getting stung by a bee as we walked through the woods to get to the pool, two big girls (all of twelve years old) came to my rescue. I remember the giant, neighborhood-wide games of sardines that once led a grumpy old man to call the cops on us kids for hiding in his trash can.
In today’s world, kids walking home from the pool by themselves is seldom seen. In the summer the neighborhood is quiet, no more hoards of children darting in and out of yards playing hide and seek. Last Friday at the elementary school fall festival, I physically led my twins around trunk-or-treat by their piggy tails to make sure I didn’t lose sight of them.
And that was the moment it hit me.
What happened to the Halloween of my ’90s childhood?
My favorite neighborhood memories revolve around Halloween. I’d don my first costume of the night and walk a friend’s house to begin our candy-collecting-adventure. We’d meet up with other neighborhood kids, all of us still in elementary school, and trick-or-treat at every house we could. After an hour or so, we’d reconvene in my basement to check out our candy stash and change into a second costume, thanks to the killer costume collection my mother supplied. Then out we went to hit the other half of the neighborhood. When we finished? Slumber party at my house with the obligatory candy swap! We’d eat until we felt sick, then fall asleep and dream about the next year’s Halloween adventures.
Does this even exist anymore? Do you let your 8-12 year old children trick or treat without adult supervision? I rarely see it. I hear my parent friends talk of how they will never do sleepovers. Even at school-led trunk-or-treats, we are so terrified of the world we live in that we drag our kids around by the piggy tails.
We’ve all read the articles about how childhood has changed, about the perceived dangers of the modern world, about how our over protection may actually be harming our kids–yet no one seems to have the answer for how to fix it.
Maybe there are lessons from a ’90s Halloween
In the ’90s, our parents trusted our neighbors. They got to know each other. I’m embarrassed to say that as an adult, I haven’t formed any friendships with other parents in the neighborhood. Yes, I have mom friends, but none of them in the area I spend most of my time–the neighborhood.
When I hear people say “we don’t do sleepovers,” I understand. I am afraid too. But I think back on those childhood memories of sleepovers, knock-on-your-door playdates, and I realize how much our children are missing.
I don’t need to encourage you to protect your child; as parents it tends to be our #1 goal. Instead I encourage you to let go of your fears. There are 7.4 billion people in this world and guess what, most of them are good. If you don’t believe me, try getting to know some of your neighbors. Go to the neighborhood fall festival, deliver homemade cookies to everyone on your block, go to that persistent lady’s crazy leggings party. If your child is invited to a sleepover and you don’t feel comfortable with them attending, why not invite the family over for dinner and get to know them?